On the morning of March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on a reef off southern Alaska, spilling 42 million liters of oil into the ocean. The environmental legacy of this and subsequent tanker spills heightened public concern about oil pollution. Public outrage is also growing over the scourge of plastics in the oceans, and this is translating into legislative efforts to curb the problem. Scientists have also begun to notice another pervasive form of pollution that could be having profound effects in the ocean: noise.
Since the 1950s, it’s estimated that the ambient noise level in the ocean has risen by around three decibels per decade—a fourfold increase. While much of this excess noise can be attributed to commercial shipping, many other human activities are contributing to the problem, including underwater construction, seismic surveys, and the use of sonar.
Scientists have only recently begun exploring the ecological impacts of noise pollution, and as a result, it’s been difficult to firmly state the scale of the problem. But now, a new systematic review has added weight to the theory that human-made noise is detrimental to marine life.
Photo: Fancy Crave/Unsplash